Reader A writes:
This touches on fat health a bit but also queer health and mental health. This was all in one thirty-minute whammy of a visit.
I made an appointment for a pap smear because I have been going through a lot of tests and pokes and prods trying to figure out why I have been jaundiced for years, and where my near-constant abdominal pain is stemming from. Also, this is the first time I have had health insurance as an adult (I’m twenty-four) so I wanted to cover all of my bases.
I had never been to a gynecologist before, and as a rape survivor, I feel that I should have at least googled what to expect. After having done said googling post-visit, however, I know that no amount of background knowledge would have prepared me for this encounter.
The receptionist didn’t know what “PCOS” stood for (my GP had suggested screening for poly-cystic ovarian syndrome due to my irregular periods and weight gain) so I waited in the lobby while she asked the doctor what that would fall under in terms of “reason for visit”. I decided to ignore the gospel radio station and hope for the best. After pulling me into a back room, weighing me, and asking me the usual questions about medications and illnesses, the doctor turned to me and asked “so what is this business about PCOS?” I explained that my GP had suggested getting checked out just in case. With a laugh she informed me that doctors try to use PCOS as a catch-all for overweight women. She asked me about my other symptoms, and after I explained about the abdominal pain and jaundice, proceeded to tell me that every one of my symptoms would go away if I would just lose a little weight.
At this point, I am no longer taking anything this woman says seriously.
When she asks me what type of birth control method I am using, I inform her that I am in a relationship with a woman and that we do not use birth control. “Oh, Lord,” she responds. “Let’s just get you looked at.”
Remember when I said that I have never been to a gynecologist before? Keep that in mind when asking yourself why the hell I stayed through what happened next.
Wearing my paper shirt and blanket, hunched over the edge of the table, I had an idea of what was coming next. I explained that I have never had a pap smear before and that I was nervous about the procedure. She laughed and told me there was nothing to be nervous about. She inserted the metal thingy into my vagina thingy and I immediately froze because of the pain. I stopped responding to her nonsense questions about what I do for a living and whether or not I exercise. Instead of checking to see what was wrong, she just stopped asking them.
When it came time for her to use her fingers to complete the exam, I was feeling numb and dissociated. That ended abruptly when she inserted FOUR fingers into me, causing me to emit a low-grade shriek. After this she giggled, said “I guess we just need one, huh?” and proceeded with the exam with one finger. I could already tell that I was bleeding- this was confirmed for me when I dressed myself and cried after she had left the room.
As the final segment of the exam, the doctor handed me an ipad with twenty or so questions on it regarding my emotional state. After I answered, she looked them over and said: “If you want to have any kind of quality of life, you should really get on a medication. It’s obvious that you are bipolar.”
This has made me so much more cautious about selecting physicians. I know that it’s going to take some work to set foot into any gynecologist’s office again, but I also know that not all of them are like this.